Yes, Brendan is right. Knowing your local landlord/tenant ordinances is absolutely a requirement. Here in Chicago, our own Chicago Landlord Tenant Ordinance has very important provisions to protect both the tenant and the landlord. It is critical that you read and know what you are required to do and not to do as a landlord. The law in this area changes rapidly. In fact, there are many changes that have occurred to Chicago's CRLTO in the last three years that are fundamental yet unrecognized. Ignorance is unfortunately no defense to claims ranging into the thousands and tens of thousands of dollares for a landlord renting a $1,000 apartment. Are you disclosing the bank account (bank name and address) where any security deposit is being held? Is that disclosure on the face of your lease? Are you advising your tenants (in your lease) that you have re-keyed all locks or have given the tenant the permission to do so? Have you attached a copy of the CRLTO? Have you disclosed the current year's interest rate on security deposits? Are you paying interest annually on deposits (even where a tenant renews or stays over? Are you providing a Radon Disclosure? Are you providing a Heating Cost Disclosure? Are you providing a Lead Based Paint Disclosure? Answer "no" to any of these and you are in peril.
So, what are you to do? All is not lost. There are many firms that represent landlords in the leasing of their property and we know how to comply with the law. That is part of the reason many landlords retain us to market their properties and retain tenants. We stay on top of the law and we work to protect you. There is a grand fallacy that by retaining a franchise real estate firm that you will somehow obtain greater protections or service. Get wise. This is not the case. Many of the agents at these firms are absolutely uneducated about the rental market or of the requirements imposed on landlords. Simply ask those agents the questions posed above or take a look at a draft lease they offer you. If it says "copyright 2008", RUN!!!!!
Work with a firm that specializes in rentals and that knows the law. And, learn the law yourself.
Rusty A. Payton, Broker
1225 W Morse
Chicago, Illinois 60626
The site below may offer you some insights but depending upon the complexities of your concerns you may need to contact an attorney for advise and direction moving forward.
The Chicago Bar Association lawyer referral program may be able to provide you with some additional resources as well.